Recently, I was revising my memoir and found an error in one of my references. It was inescapably music-related but I thought I’d post here since it’s more about writing. People still debate about what exactly “creative non-fiction” is. Some say it’s how a writer remembers something, and memory is imperfect. Embellishing too much from your real-life experiences crosses the line into “realistic fiction.” If you are looking to keep things as honest as possible, then you know you have to double-check everything.
When you get to the eighth or ten thousandeth read-through it is harder to focus on being meticulous because you almost have the manuscript memorized…but take care to get things right that you can easily verify. For example, I bet I have seen Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” about 100,000 times. When writing the excerpt about seeing it for the first time, I noticed an error in content. I was very specific about the way the camera pans to this boy doing crayon drawings. It does show these images, but not until the second verse, whereas I had it pinned as immediately after the first. Going through my “thorough” edit process, I discovered the mistake. I stopped and tried to envision it and then it occurred to me that I should check the facts.
So, there I was, at 6 a.m. watching Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” after a number of years of not seeing it. I noticed the error and corrected it in my writing but seeing the video also helped inspire me to enhance the imagery in that particular segment even more. Seeing that video a billion times as a young teen and then seeing it in mid-adulthood was quite a contrast. Perhaps with all the recent gun violence in the U.S., this tragic representation seemed all the more haunting. The song and video are true creative non-fiction at its best. The band’s artful response was inspired by actual events, sadly. But the video is such a good vehicle for the awareness of emotionally neglected children. The band enhances the intensity of the subject matter by using a series of intertextual themes, such as writing a Bible verse on the blackboard, and having bold, black letters contrasted against bright white pages.
Representations such as these that blend song, images, words and art together can enhance and inspire your writing. And that’s no tall tale.
Be well and write on,